The NFL has the best playoff system of any major American sport at any level. As great as the various postseasons fielded by all of the college and pro leagues are, they don’t quite meet the standard set by pro football’s most prestigious organization. Why? The NFL has the perfect amount of teams in its playoff tournament and a superb way of selecting them. So why screw it up by adding another Wild Card team in each conference?
A report involving Dan Patrick says the NFL owners are planning on expanding the current NFL playoff format from six to seven teams in each conference, adding a third Wild Card team for both the NFC and AFC. How the heck would and odd-number work? And don’t even bring up MLB — they can play every day, unlike the NFL; adding a play-in game would mean adding another week to the postseason.
The other part of this is the bracket creep philosophy: more teams means less-quality competition, and that’s true. The Dallas Cowboys narrowly missed the playoffs in each of the last three seasons and no one wants to see them qualify for the postseason, yet more 8-8 teams playing in January is exactly what we would get by expanding the field.
The NFL rarely has a .500 team in the playoffs and it’s best that it stays that way. Sure, those mediocre teams sometimes make things interesting in the Wild Card round, but not always. Sure, the 7-9 Seattle Seahawks of 2010 won their first contest at home but then didn’t stand a chance on the road in the next round. The same thing happened with Tim Tebow and the 8-8 Denver Broncos in 2011 — that incredible Wild Card win was instantly forgotten after a thumping in the Divisional Round.
With more teams in the playoffs, there will be more games that don’t mean anything. For example, everyone knows this year’s Wild Card matchup between the San Diego Chargers and Cincinnati Bengals was futile — neither team had a chance to play in the Super Bowl before the game was even played. Adding a third Wild Card team would only create more meaningless contests like that — and that’s granted the system of seven teams on one side of the bracket could be mastered. (That’s not a safe bet).
The NFL’s current system is so symmetrical and so foolproof that tweaking it would prove yet again the owners care more about money than the product they’re putting on the field. No one wants to see more 8-8 teams in the playoffs except Jerry Jones and who wants to make him happy? I don’t see any hands.